Laughter, tears — and cash — for lucky graduates of Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School

Read at Lowell Sun

LOWELL — Stay in the bathtub for a long time. Do not eat lunch with annoying people. Be passionate about your education.

Those were just a few of the 20 pieces of advice that Vice President and Director of Community Relations of TJX Jerome Smalls gave the Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School’s 2011 graduating class last night at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre.

Smalls was the keynote speaker for the second year in a row. Last year, he called one of the graduating students to the stage and gave him $100. This year, he brought $100 for each of the 16 graduating students.

Due to the partnership that exists between LMAC and TJX, Smalls said he has come to know all of the graduates personally.

That bond was echoed by the faculty. Staff members gave speeches about each of the students and how they have seen them grow. The details they shared, from what kind of clothes they wore to their personal struggles, emphasized how closely they have come to know each other.

“I hold each and every one of you close to my heart, and I will never forget the memories we made together,” said Stephanie Lamarche, valedictorian of the class and recipient of the Mathew Boulé Ethical Value Award.

Lamarche choked up during her speech, but her message of the strong bonds that formed between the 16 classmates during their time at LMAC was clear.

Alex Arsenault, the salutatorian, encouraged her fellow graduates to take chances and strive to make every year the best of their lives.

All of the graduates spoke about the excitement of their future possibilities.

Chelsey Surprenant spent two years at LMAC. Last night, her teachers spoke about how, at first, her heart did not seem to be in it. Over the course at Surprenant’s time at LMAC, however, she went through a visible change and developed a sense of purpose.

Now, she has plans to either attend Middlesex Community College or join the Navy. She hopes to become an EMT.

“It’s basically everything for me,” she said about graduating from LMAC.

Faculty member David Harrison, who teaches a senior seminar and a public-speaking course, has seen the graduates grow from the beginning.

“I feel really inspired. They have such resilience and perseverance,” he said. “They all supported each other.”

The following students graduated from Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School:

Anthony Abreu, Alexis Arsenault, Ashley Bernier, David Bilbeau, Robert Cherubino, Alex Cruz, Andrew Goldsmith, Melissa Hubbard, Stephanie Lamarche, Jose Liriano, Yaisha Matos, Julia Pagan, Sharee Patnaude, Juliana Ramos, Chandararith Sem and Chelsey Surprenant.